Monday, June 11, 2007

Why I talk about rates in general, not MY rates

I had a comment to moderate that seems to have disappeared, but I want to respond to it anyway. The comment was in reference to a post where I mentioned last year's rates -- my post on pruning, I'm guessing it was. The anonymous commenter was asking what rates I charge, because s/he said I am a role model to other freelancers, and a little bit of extra guidance would be much appreciated.

Well, first of all, many thanks to Anonymous for saying I am a role model. Although admittedly I dream of filling such a lofty position, the truth is I am fairly new at the freelancing, compared to some of the other writers' whose blogs I read. However, I'd like to think that the fact that I've made it more than a year and a half means that I'll be in it for the long haul -- and perhaps in ten years, I'll be a role model to more than just my few readers. :o)

(However, I also realize that a freelancer who has been doing her thing for a year and a half is probably more accessible a role model for other beginning freelancers. When you're just starting out, super-successful writers such as Anne Rice and Stephen King are still nothing less than demi gods, and I think beginning writers much prefer looking up to other freelancers that have made it to a more attainable level of success.)

But my ego is not the subject of this post. I actually would like to address the request that I post my rates. The fact that I have never posted an exact figure is not an accident -- I have been hesitant to "say too much," as it were. My reasoning is that everyone is different -- we all live in different areas, with different expenses, and different ideas of what a living wage is for us. I don't want to okay a certain dollar amount, for fear that I'll be leading some writers to underprice themselves, while others overprice themselves.
Does this seem hypocritical? I'm not sure, myself. I've ranted and raved about low-paying writing jobs, but I've also said that I don't think a minimum wage for writers is applicable. Ultimately, I think the rate that each writer chooses to write for is a personal decision -- but that all freelancers need to first understand the scams that exist currently.

I can safely say that I think $1 per article is too low. I've also stated that I feel writers should be getting at least the minimum wage in their area, whatever that may be. However, it's also worth noting that many writers boast hourly rates of $50 and up. While yours may not be that great (mine isn't), it shouldn't be rock-bottom, either.

So how do you know if you've hit rock-bottom? Well, I think if you take your hours worked and wages earned, and your hourly rate comes up less than what the average retail clerk makes in your area, you need to seriously rethink your rates.

On that note, I think it really helps to think about what jobs pay in your area. In some areas, full-time writing jobs are pretty hard to come by, and only pay $15 an hour for entry level work. A freelance writer just starting out in an area like this might consider $15 per hour a minimum rate, but would realistically need to strive for $20 or more per hour, since freelancers inevitably have to focus a good part of their day on searching for work and marketing.

I once wrote a rather long post on determining your writing rates according to what you need to make each month in order to pay your bills. I'll sum up here and say that you need to figure out how much you need to earn per hour, keeping in mind that you likely won't clock 8 billable hours every day. Most clients like per-article or per-project rates, so before you offer a quote, make sure you know enough about the article or project to estimate how long it will take you to complete.

I hope this helps. Anyone who has further questions is welcome to ask, either via commenting (click on the title) or by contacting me directly.


Kathy@TheFlawlessWord said...

Well, if you're a hypocrite then I'm a hypocrite too because I never reveal my exact rates either. I don't really have anything to hide, but I couldn't really pin down an exact hourly rate if I tried. That's because sometimes I charge by the hour, sometimes, I charge by the word, and sometimes I charge by the project. In the end, it works out to quite a bit more than the $15 you recommend (which I agree is the minimum starting rate one should accept) but less than the $50 we'd probably all like to be making.

On a related note, I agree that where you live has a lot to do with this whole equation. In my neck of the woods, even $15/hour is hard to come by in the real world, so I do quite well for myself despite not yet being at the top of the pay scale. All in due time. ;o)

Katharine Swan said...

Thanks, Kathy! I'm glad you're on pretty much the same page as me. I'm in the same general range you are -- usually quite a bit more than $15 an hour, but less than the ideal $50 an hour. Of course, there are always the few days where nothing goes quite right, and I drop far below even that $15... Luckily, though, there aren't too many of those!


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